About three years ago I started my first online business. I was nervous about the unknown and didn’t really know what were the right steps to take. Luckily I had a mentor who gave me great advice and taught me a lot about search engine optimization. I now work with small business start ups and find that most of my clients have the same questions I did.
To make it as easy as possible, help avoid confusion, and give everyone the opportunity to see the quickest results with their new businesses, I’ve put together another list of specific step by step to-do’s. I’m sure, if you put all my “lists” together, you’ll see that starting a business is not just something that people do with the snap of a finger and “voila”, the money comes flowing in. It takes time, persistence, creativity and hard work, but it’s really worth it.
This list is very step by step and is primarily for those looking to set up a business based on dropshipping.
- Get your business entity set up with your state or country. Without the business entity, dropshippers won’t even consider working with you. The best way to do this is go to your state’s website. There you will find the paper work that needs to be filled out. You can also get the help of an accountant or legal advisor (there will be costs involved).
- Start applying for suppliers. This is one of the biggest hurdles I came across as I got started. If you don’t have products, how do you plan to make money? Think about industries you’d be excited to be a part of.
- Do keyword research: There are two things to look for with keyword research: demand and competition. I use a free keyword research tool at http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com to help me find demand. Without demand for your product or idea, nothing else really matters. Find words and phrases that relate to the industry you are involved in and that people would be using to find what you are selling. There are a lot of ways to look at competition. The one I use to keep it most simple is google.com. When I get to google, I type in allintitle:”keyword phrase” in the search bar. This tells me how many websites out there actually have the specific keyword phrase in the title of their page. I call this my real competition even though I know there are other searches you can do too (allinanchor, allintext, allinurl). These are helpful, but I prefer to keep it as simple as possible. Make sure you record your research in a spreadsheet and keep it for later as you start to market more aggressively. If you want more information on this, contact me at (info at mollermarketing dot com.)
- Research and Purchase a domain name for your website. When picking a domain name I follow these rules:
– easy to spell
– easy to remember
– three words or less
– avoid numbers (words and numeric symbols)
– avoid words like “to, too, two”, “four, for”, and “you, u” because they are easy to get mixed up
– use of a keyword phrase can be helpful but not mandatory (you don’t want to limit what you can sell by using such a specific phrase that you can only sell that product)
- Look at website builder and hosting options. There are quite a few options out there. Before you buy one that says it’s so great, make sure it will do the following things: custom meta tags for all pages, no iframes, static pages that allow you to create friendly URLs (ie. http://www.ClogOn.com/used-clogging-shoes.html vs. http://www.ClogOn.com/page/12890328677.html – the first is what we want for SEO). A few builders and hosts I suggest are www.sitecreatorplus.com and www.BlueHost.com. There are other options too – just be careful. Remember, not all builders do what search engines look for.
- Prioritize – Start getting content on the pages of your website: information, pictures, products, fun facts, testimonials and feedback, your opinions, what your business is all about, product comparisons, etc. The worst thing you could do is wait to put content on the site. It’s better to have something there that people can read or look at or sign up for than have a site that says “This site is under construction.” All sites are “under construction”, even if they look completely done.
- Get the shopping cart set up on your website. Many builders and hosts have this already set up. If they don’t, I usually don’t waste time trying to figure out the programming on my own. You can find programmers at www.elance.com, www.getafreelancer.com, www.guru.com and http://forums.digitalpoint.com. Once it’s set up, I recommend going through the check out process as if you were a shopper. This way, when clients call you with questions or want to place an order over the phone, you know what they are referring to.
I will add to this list in the future. However, if you don’t get these things done, knowing more may not really help you. Skipping over the basic steps wastes a lot of time later on when you don’t even know what keyword research is or what phrase you want to focus on.
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